Great game tonight. It is never fun blowing a two-goal lead to a tired team, but the boys persevered and leaned on one of those rarely used tools in the shed - the powerplay. All three of the goals tonight were with the man advantage. The nicest one had to be Watermelon Warrior's one-timer in the slot if for no other reason than it was a triumphant return back to the lineup after the concussion.
But as you know, we aren't here for post-game updates. The other Sens blogs like Silver Seven Sens do a great job at that and so we take a different approach. Today, I'd like to sound the alarm for a few players that haven't jumped up and raised the bar in the past five games. Some names are to be expected, some will surprise you. Here we go:
Wake up Call #1: Jonathan Cheechoo
We're all starting to get a bit tired of this act. For the first while, we gave him time to gain chemistry with new linemates. For the next little while, we cut him slack for injury recovery. Then, we defended him because he was a 'hard worker' and had a good attitude. Now, we're full circle and sticking up for him because he's stuck on the fourth line. Let's get over it, everyone. Cheechoo isn't good. I watched him closely tonight and not only is his shot terrible, he has poor positioning. We had a 3-on-2 coming down the left wing and Cheechoo, coming down the right side, decided to join the jump into the middle with his centre. Normally, this might be crashing the net, but in this case he completely abandoned the weak side and so when Smith's shot came off Mason's pads and kicked perfectly to the far slot, there was no $3M winger there to bang it into the open net. Dumb stuff like that. For that amount of money, a guy that brings nothing to the table but hard work...brings nothing to the table. Wake up call to not a 56-goal scorer, but perhaps a 20-goal scorer? Or someone that can skate better than Brad Marsh? Anybody home, McFly? My patience with the Cheechoo train has left the station.
Wake up call #2: Chris Kelly
Another obvious one here. I'm not as disappointed in him just because expectations are so low to begin with. Kelly kills penalties and backchecks, wins a few faceoffs, and keeps getting credit as a good 'locker room guy'. But remember a few years ago when he stepped onto the top line and basically earned his entire $8M contract in the month that Spezza was out? No NHL player's hands should be so awful that they can't hit the corner of the net once in a while instead of always shooting it into the chest of the goalie. While his teammates like Regin are running with the added icetime, it is discouraging to see Kelly remain on his low level plateau and fail to fill a void that he once did. Step it up, Kells.
Wake up call #3: Filip Kuba
What is with this guy? Last year, we knew that there was no physical dimension to his game but he still had the ability to move the puck up the ice and quarterback the powerplay. Now, he's constantly out of position in the defensive zone, he's getting pushed around more than Karlsson, and his shots are going off forwards' shins. I won't even bother with the salary argument because that is obvious. I will bother to point out that Kuba is the lesser defenceman paired with Karlsson right now, which is disappointing. Lucky for us, the kid is stepping up to balance the demise of #17. I'd like to think that Kuba, if he is truly healthy from the wrist/hand injury, can't be that different than the solid, reliable puck mover he was last year.
Wake up call #4: Ryan Shannon
This was a tough one. You hear his name a lot during a typical broadcast because he skates hard and gets into the corners. He's strong with the pickpocket and he benefits from lining up with Kovalev and upstart Regin right now. So then why is he stuck at 13 points and close to a team worst minus-9? Shannon is not on this team for his magical playmaking, he's here because he's fast and he's responsible. He isn't as gifted as his two linemates, but he should be the one hanging back to help the D out when Regin and Kovalev are wearing offence. Shannon should still feel like a kid getting a chance with the big club, learn to take advantage of his icetime, and help us keep pucks out of our zone. Spezza is back next week and while the obvious out is Zach Smith (let's be honest, this is exactly who it will be), it isn't unfair to name Shannon in the short list.
Okay, the one thing I hate about posting this is that it is so lame to write something negative in the middle of a five-game winning streak. I guess I just want to see all the pieces moving in the same direction. But I don't want to take away from a very impressive five-game winning streak right now. We have some tough games coming up against the Bruins, the Devils, and the Penguins, too. If the Chicago win was a barometer against the best team in hockey, these next three will hopefully validate it for us. We've struggled with all three teams for most of the season, so hopefully the momentum will keep cranking.
Upcoming discussions: The Volchenkov conundrum, the Pascal/Elliott conundrum, and the "let's hope Sweden stinks in the Olympics so Alfie doesn't get worn out" conundrum.
In the meantime, did the wake up calls ring true, was one of the unwarranted, or was someone left off?